by Lorie Lewis Ham
The San Joaquin Valley is filled with amazing talent, both in theatre and music. Here at KRL we enjoy being able to feature some of that talent and give our readers some insight into the lives of the people they see on stage. This week we are profiling local actor Greg Ruud, who was recently seen at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to The Forum.
Greg was born in Kerman and moved to Fresno with some friends after high school. He attended Fresno City College and what is now Fresno Pacific College. Through the years, he has had many different jobs including being a pastor, farming, construction and everything from a bartender to a dishwasher at Roger Rocka’s. For the past ten years, he has been a realtor.
It was working at Roger Rocka’s as a waiter that led him to theatre. “In 1979 I was working a second job as a waiter at Roger Rocka’s. This was my first exposure to stage theatre and I was mesmerized by what I saw happening on stage. My good friend Mark Norwood (Of Reedley Opera House fame), who was also working there at the time, encouraged me to participate in some upcoming auditions. I had zero acting experience and ‘wonder of wonders’ I got into the show, which was Godspell, AND I got the role of Stephen who plays Jesus in the play. That was the good news, the bad news was I wasn’t very good, I got terrible reviews, but that was the beginning and it was a wonderful experience, bad reviews aside.”
After that, Greg went on to do many more shows with GCP through 1986, when family duties and work took precedence. During that time, some of his favorite shows were The Elephant Man, Oklahoma (as Jud), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (as Hero), All My Sons (playing opposite Dan Pessano as his father), and a play called Terra Nova in which his character had a brain aneurism and died. “I have played four characters who have died.”
“He is one of the most generous souls on the planet,” said Joel Abels, who worked with Greg during those early days at GCP, and more recently directed Greg in The Light in the Piazza for StageWorks Fresno. “Coupled with that is the fact that he is a joy to work with as an actor both in talent and from a directing standpoint. Always where you need him to be, without fail. He always comes through in every situation. I cannot say enough about what a truly wonderful actor and human being he is.”
After 18 years away from the stage, Greg returned about seven years ago and considers himself lucky to have played some wonderful roles since then, and to have worked with some wonderful creative teams and actors. Some of the highlights over the past seven years have been 7 Brides for 7 Brothers (Adam Pontipee), Man Of La Mancha (Sancho), Paint Your Wagon (Ben Rumson), two different productions of a Christmas Carol (Marley), Spring Awakening (5 different characters), and The Elephant Man. “At Fresno State I got a second chance to be in The Elephant Man and to play the role I really wanted to play back in 1982 (Ross).”
“I directed Greg in Fresno State’s production of The Elephant Man, and StageWorks Fresno’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” said J. Daniel Herring. “He was a role model for the younger actors in both productions. His work ethic and attention to character details in his performance were outstanding.”
Several factors go into what shows Greg chooses to audition for, though he doesn’t have a favorite type of show. “Such as my schedule, the director, subject matter, other people who I know who are auditioning.”
He loves everything about doing a show, from the audition to the final performance. “I like that I get to be another person. That I get to ‘play.’ But I think my favorite thing about performing is the community that forms among the cast for that time period and then is over when the play ends. We go on an intense little journey together that will never be duplicated. Second favorite thing is hearing an audience wetting its pants laughing, of course it is messy afterwards, but so satisfying.”
Greg’s least favorite thing is the work of memorizing lines and music because it does not come easily for him. “Oh and let’s not forget Kaye Migake’s dance auditions, truly an awful experience for us non-dancers.”
As to what has helped him grow as an actor, oddly enough Greg stated that it is criticism and fear. “My first play I had no idea what I was doing and the director pulled me aside one night and said ‘this rehearsal tonight stunk and it was because of you’, well I worked awfully hard to not be the reason we stunk the next night. It is also helpful to watch others who are really good at their craft and learn from them.”
Thanks to the flexibility of his job, Greg hasn’t found balancing theatre and work very difficult. In his spare time, he enjoys playing racquetball and softball. He also enjoys backpacking, gardening, and antiques. His love of sports also influences his choice of one of his big heroes, Jackie Robinson. However, in the area of theatre, Greg deeply admires what Dan Pessano has done in and for this community and for him.
Greg has many fun stories about his time on stage, including the time when he was playing Jud in Oklahoma and walked out on stage at the wrong time. “Then there was me unplugging the entire band in another play, using lipstick to color in my eyebrows, flubbed lines and lyrics–all are just another reason to do theater.”
Local actress Emily Pessano was one of those present for the lipstick on the eyebrows. “Greg is not only a great performer, but a lovely human being and friend. It’s rare, especially now with all the local fringe theaters popping up, to get someone who is willing to commit, be a team player, and take on any role, big or small, just for the joy of performing and for the love of the show itself – without fail, that is what you get from Greg.”
Greg is very thankful for theatre and the theater community of Fresno. “It has added so many levels of enjoyment to my life.”
You can find more theatre reviews and entertainment articles in KRL’s arts & entertainment section.